In 2015, John Legend came one step closer to EGOT status when he and Common won an Oscar for “Glory,” the theme song they wrote for the civil rights film Selma.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film looks back at Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led the Selma to Montgomery march, which was sparked by the 1965 killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a civil rights activist. DuVernay tapped Common and John Legend to write the theme song for the film.
During the evening concert series of the 2020 Essence Festival of Culture, John Legend and Common reunited and performed the song with the same urgency in support of Black Lives Matter.
Five years later “Glory” resonates—if not more—as much needed conversations around systemic racism is at a fever pitch.
“That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/that’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up,” reminded Common, dressed in a summer striped button down with Legend at the piano in an intimate, quarantine-approved performance setting.
Legend’s majestic delivery of “when the war is won/ when it’s all said and done/ we’ll cry glory/ oooh glory…” still reverberates as a rallying cry for social justice.
When Selma was released in 2014, Black folx were protesting the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Selma actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr., recently revealed in an interview with ScreenDaily’s “Screen Talks” that he and his castmates were “punished” for wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts on the red carpet.
“Glory” is steeped in historic references, including Martin Luther King’s 1968 speech I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, James Weldon Johnson’s poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and Julia Ward Howe’s 1862 song “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The critically-acclaimed film was only nominated for two Academy Awards: best picture and original song. According to Genius, “Glory” became the third hip-hop song to win an Oscar for Best Original Song.